Sunday, September 6, 2009

No More Traffic Lights?

Imagine having no stop signs or traffic lights. Imagine no instructive lines painted on the road. In a growing number of European cities, this bizarre dream has become a reality under the bland sounding label of "Shared Space."

According to CBS News, the town of Drachten in the Netherlands implemented Shared Space, eliminating traffic lights within the city limits. It watched its annual traffic accident rate drop from 8 a year to two accidents. The logic in the system is that it shifts the focus of both drivers and pedestrians from signs and electric signals to each other. Under this system, the mentality of cyclists and those on foot shifts to a mode of greater watchfulness and responsibility for themselves.

It could be argued that Shared Space might be suitable for a certain range of temperament that is commonplace in smaller towns but far less prevalent in large cities. London is planning a pilot program in its museum district in which most of the traffic lights and signs will be done away with. They plan to fine tune and possibly expand the experiment depending on the results.

I found numerous videos dealing with this novel concept on You Tube. Only one shot gave me the chills. It was a video which showed a two way street with no lines in the middle. It raised the issue of some modifications to the Shared Space concept.

Shared Space has lived on for thirty years in the Netherlands, indicating that there has been sufficient success with it to keep it alive and that it is not simply a fad. What is intriguing about Shared space is the extent that it flies in the face of accepted logic. I have always thought that clear deliniation of driver, cyclist and pedestrian roles is the key to safety. Indeed, most philosophical discussions of anarchism as a political philosophy start with the premise that traffic laws are among the few laws that are self evidently commonsensical. Shared Space has repercussions in ongoing debate on libertarian and anarchist philosophy.

I would be fearful of introducing Shared Space to New York. I don't know if it could blend well with the "New York state of mind." I would imagine that any area which introduces it would have to spend a few months prior to the introduction of Shared Space before it could be implemented. Philosophically, I think it is a great idea. But with human life at stake, I would treat this innovative idea with extreme caution

1 comment:

UNRR said...

This post has been linked for the HOT5 Daily 9/7/2009, at The Unreligious Right